Regular media reports on what is often described as a rollback in the mission of environmental protection may have left some wondering what it all means for us locally.
Spoiler alert: not much.
Let’s take a look at two of the high-profile issues making news and see what there is for us to be concerned about.
This is the month when the new, healthier standard for harmful ozone concentrations was to be implemented. The last time such action was taken was in 2007 during the Bush administration.
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I was a part of that process then, and it was the first time in 10 years that a reduction in allowable levels of ozone was mandated.
Since then, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has come very close to meeting that standard after being in full compliance with the previous requirements going back to 1990.
There are only two of the area’s 20 air quality monitors just marginally short of readings that would have made it possible to get us off the list of areas in the country with unhealthy air.
Emissions from the mass of vehicles crowding our roadways and the few industrial sources in our area that lead to ozone formation continue to decline. But hot summer weather provides for conditions that keep us just over the threshold.
So what happens now that we have to meet an even lower level of ozone here in our nation’s fourth-most-populous urban center.
The answer to that question offers further hope. Looking again at those 20 monitors across the region we find those that are out of range for the new requirement, none are recording readings so high that we can’t predict reaching compliance in a reasonable time.
The EPA hasn’t finalized its designations for any part of the country yet, so deadlines for reaching the new requirement have not been set. Projections for us, however, are promising and ultimate attainment can be planned.
A second part of the current focus on Trump’s environmental agenda is his declaration to end the “war on coal” and effectively cancel Obama’s massive volumes of regulations collectively known as the Clean Power Plan.
Doing so means almost nothing to us here in North Texas.
The result of the Clean Power Plan would ultimately lead to shutting down most of the nation’s electric generators that use coal for fuel.
There aren’t any of those kinds of plants in our area and even many of the ones in East Texas that would have fallen victim to the aggressive regulations to terminate them are already scheduled to be shut down.
With the abundance of cheaper and cleaner natural gas, those plants are no longer economically viable. So it’s not government regulation but free markets that are bringing about change that results in a healthier environment.
Wind is providing power generation nearly equal to what we are getting from coal. As long as the wind blows in Texas, that trend is going to keep growing.
When new and fast developing alternatives such as abundant wind energy come into play, it matters little around here what the government is doing to stop coal use.
Or, for that matter, what the Trump administration is doing that upsets environmental organizations and brings lawsuits from states that don’t want him to roll back Obama’s regulatory initiatives.
While environmental issues will always produce controversy, and feed the insatiable appetite of those in Congress and the national media bent on opposing the president’s every move, the reality is often something else.
The good work of environmental protection, coupled with economic reality, goes forward and equals progress in both areas of our national life.
Here at home, we can relate to that in terms relatively easy to understand.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.